About one in 10 U.S. adults are struggling with depression, but the go-to treatment, antidepressants, are estimated to work in in less than half of those who take them (and some studies have found they work no better than a placebo).
This means that a lot of people with depression are left with a debilitating darkness that keeps them from fully enjoying and living their lives — and this is among those who are being treated! Countless others do not seek help and are simply struggling alone — a dangerous scenario when dealing with depression.
If this applies to you or someone you love, there’s a simple step that may make a difference: exercise.
Exercise and Depression: How Does it Work?
Exercise is well known to boost your body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals, endorphins. These hormone-like substances also act as natural painkillers. In addition, exercise lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol while releasing adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine, which may all have a positive impact on your mood.
There’s more to exercise and depression than endorphins, however. Exercise also increases your levels of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which some experts describe as “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”[i] Because BDNF promotes the health of nerve cells and helps neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine to work properly, it’s thought that it may help people with depression improve their mood and overcome the condition.
Exercise as Effective as Drugs for Treating Depression …
Many studies have proven exercises’ effectiveness in relieving depressive symptoms. For instance, people with mild to moderate depression (a group for whom antidepressant benefits have been found to be virtually nonexistent[ii]) were able to cut their depressive symptoms nearly in half just by exercising for 30 minutes, three to five times a week, for 12 weeks.[iii]
In one study by Duke University researchers, after 16 weeks of exercise patients with depression improved just as much as those taking antidepressants, or those taking antidepressants and exercising. In a later study, they then showed that continuing the exercise program for six months had a lasting effect.
While 38 percent of those taking antidepressants, and 31 percent of those taking the drugs and exercising, had their depression return, this occurred in just 8 percent of those in the exercise-only group. The studies’ lead researcher noted:[iv]
” … a modest exercise program is an effective and robust treatment for patients with major depression … And if these motivated patients continue with their exercise, they have a much better chance of not seeing their depression return.”
If Motivation is a Problem …
The benefits of exercise may get better as time goes by because once a person starts exercising, and feels the benefits, they tend to exercise more. But getting over the initial hurdle and finding the motivation to start exercising in the first place can be a challenge, especially for someone struggling with depression.
A great starting point is a short, high-intensity workout to get your heart pumping without having to invest a lot of time, and that’s exactly what you get with the No Excuse Workout. Hailed as “the world’s fastest workout” by Men’s Fitness magazine, No Excuses takes just four minutes … but in that time gives you a full-body workout.
If you’re having trouble getting motivated to exercise, or staying committed to your program, this is the perfect workout for you, as it’s hard to find a reason not to exercise when it only takes four minutes … the two-DVD set comes with 10 different four-minute workouts in all, so it keeps your workouts effective and fun.
One final note … if you or a loved one is suffering from depression, please do not suffer in silence. Depression can tear apart families and is a leading cause of suicide. Please seek help from a qualified health care practitioner who can help you to recover and reclaim your love for life.